The meniscus is made of flexible cartilage and is the main absorber of the knee. It is located between the femur and tibia. There are lateral and medial meniscus. Injuries to these structures are among the most common in the knee.
The main causes of meniscus injury
Young, active and sportive people are more vulnerable to sharp and mechanical injuries, caused by a sudden increase in knee twist forces. Older people (40+) are more vulnerable to diseases due to degeneration and continuous overload.
What are the symptoms of damage to the meniscus
- swelling leading to stiffness (inflammation fluid in the joint)
- limited range of motion
- locked knee
What to do in case of meniscus injury
- Do not load the injured leg
- Rest and limit the amount of movement
- Apply icepack
- Apply compression bandages (elastic)
- Consult a doctor
How to diagnose meniscus injuries
Meniscus injury is diagnosed after a medical record the patient to assess the clinical condition of the knee and a series of physical tests. Diagnostic imaging is useful. An X-ray can exclude any fracture within the joint. Ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging allow to specify the exact extent and location of damage.
Meniscus injuries can be treated in different ways depending on the extent of damage and age. Damage to the meniscus in most cases require surgical treatment. An exception is made among children and minor damage among adults.
Typically, acute injuries among young, active patients are treated by sewing, meniscus repair, its regeneration or transplantation. In the case of degenerative changes, more often partial removal of the meniscus is preferred.
- Conservative treatment – to reduce pain and swelling, anti-inflammatory medications, walking on crutches, rest, cooling knee compression. Rehabilitation is necessary, aimed at improving muscle strength and endurance, to restore full range of motion and improve stability.
- Meniscus removal – the removal of the damaged fragment using the arthroscopic technique, a camera and surgical instruments which are placed in the knee through small incisions.
- Sewing the meniscus – a minimally invasive arthroscopic technique (the use of specialized implants, staples or an anchor).
- Restoring or regenerating the meniscus – this is the best solution for people whose meniscus cannot be repaired and requires removal. In this procedure, the damaged fragment of the meniscus is replaced with an implant. The regeneration is based on collagen membrane being coated around the meniscus, which enables it to heal.
In the decision making process, related to the procedure choice, it is necessary to remember that the meniscus is the main absorber in the knee joint. Its removal, however effective in the first stage of treatment, is undesirable and can lead to degenerative changes in the long term.